It’s hard to imagine any vineyard or winery manager in Oregon coming up with a song like that unless they had an excellent memory of their childhood or just weren’t in the business very long. September is a kind of hurry-up-and-wait month. Hurry up to prepare and then just wait. Prepare for the onslaught of hungry birds by netting the grapes or setting up propane cannons. Prepare for fall rains following the summer drought to foster botrytis, the stuff that makes a grape cluster look like a snowball. Prepare for harvest and crush by checking the equipment so that when the forklift or the steam pressure washer breaks down, it will be the bracket or seal you didn’t check that provides the surprise.
Then wait . . . wait for the sugars to rise and the acids to decline . . . wait for the flavors to develop . . . and wait for the weather to reveal itself.
September is the month of the year that can best make or break a vintage. In 2013, after finally escaping the cloudy cool weather of La Niña’s visit in 2010 and 2011, the first weekend of that month brought three and one-half inches of rain that split the thirsty berries and opened them to disease. We lost 70% of our pinot noir that year.
Now we get to wait and see what this year’s fall weather has in store for our estate grapes, those we manage adjacent to the winery. Our Weather Wizard, Kyle Dittmer, is predicting a half-inch of rain each day on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday of next week. That will be enough to saturate the dry ground and be sucked up by the vines. While we would hope for a more mellow transition to fall weather, the weather doesn’t care about our wishes. We’ll just have to wait and see.
As of September 12, we have just about finished the “hurry up” work and the waiting has just begun. Color change is just about complete. Today, we finished removing the clusters outside of the vines’ fruiting zone that won’t ripen. Instead they would have sapped the clusters of the nutrients they need to complete their growth cycle before winding up in a barrel. We’ve also crushed a ton of merlot from Tri-Cities that will be split between rose’ and a full-bodied merlot. Not much of a backup; at least we know that the crusher and press are working. In any event we’ll still keep our hopes alive and make an attempt at being mellow.